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30th November
2008
written by Steph
Two what? Slightly dull soldiers, that's what.

Two what? Slightly boring soldiers, that's what.

Tony's Review

Steph and I recently finished with this game (note how I didn't simply say finished) and we had a few thoughts regarding game-play and such. Overall it's a fairly playable game, a little light on story but easy enough to get into once you get the swing of things. There are some quirks I don't particularly care for, but overall it was reasonably playable. The first thing we noticed when we began play was the fact that the characters are a bit insipid. They seem pretty one-dimensional and the dialogue rarely moves any real characterization forward. Granted, this is judging within the new "games as art/cinema" schema created with the introduction of the next-gen consoles. This being a fairly early release, some of the lackluster character detail work can be forgiven knowing that the developers were also trying to get the hang of a new format. That being said, since this game was made by juggernaut EA, there is actually a very small margin of forgiveness I'm willing to allow. So the story and characterization is weak, that can easily be forgiven if the game-play is stellar and engaging. This game manages to be almost engaging, but not quite. For some reason we never could really get comfortable with the movement and shooting in this game, though not for lack of trying. Something about the aiming and movement combined was just off. Add to that the lack of any way, other than swinging your analog stick around wildly, to quickly center the camera behind your character, this game gets cumbersome in places. Melee attacks are almost useless as there seems to be some sort of timing to it, though it's never revealed what that timing is nor is it clear that the timing remains the same. The game seems to be fairly arbitrary about timing, and also about when an enemy is really dead. I will say that enemy AI is fine for the most part, with enemies never really getting too sneaky, but not really doing anything too stupid either. The "aggro" system, which is touted as the key to effective game-play is yet another element that is not quite right. According to the game, characters who show more aggression, by attacking, having a bigger gun, what have you, get "aggro." Once you have more aggro enemies focus on you and generally forget about your partner. This is all well and good, except for the fact that pretty much any gun gets the user aggro after a few shots, regardless of what their pal is doing. And, unfortunately, when your partner has the aggro you aren't really all that sneaky as enemies usually spot you as soon as you come out of cover (rather than their usual radar method that allows them to know where you are regardless of whether they have actually "seen" you or not). We made it to the last level and pretty much gave up with frustration. The levels up to that point had been somewhat hard, but not impossible, but in the last level the developers seem to decide that it's okay if they throw every enemy they can think of at you. Considering that we really didn't care about the story up to this point and the game had given us no impetus to find out what the confused resolution might be, we threw in the towel. I will say that Ao2 did get some things right, such as not having to manage your health (beyond not getting shot too much). I've come to be a big fan of games that don't mess with health and just let you know when you're suffering and should hide out until things get better. The whole not dying as long as one man is up thing was nice too. granted, you only have so long to revive your buddy before he bites the big enchilada, but it's nice to know that getting shot full of holes isn't necessarily the end (right now). The guns were cool and upgrading them did seem to have real effect on game-play, which was probably the only aspect of the game where we felt encouraged by the developers to make an effort. As a last note, the graphics were quite good. It's nice to see developers taking advantage of the new materials that the PS3 makes available. On a side note, I will say that it's been pretty clear that developers have been enthralled with the new found ability to create shiny materials (shiny metal, shiny cloth, shiny rock, shiny this and that) and a lot of games (including this one) have a lot of really nice bump-mapped shiny materials that just look out of place. I'm really glad that your tarnished silver looks so realistic, but why have you made it into a shirt? In short, it was a fair game with some flaws that could (and should) have been fixed prior to release. It wasn't a terrible game, it just didn't stand out in any real way. If you want to play a shoot 'em up game with a friend and don't care if it's very interesting or engaging (beyond shooting) then this title will probably work. If you're interested in something a little more refined with a story and some believable characters and engaging game-play, look elsewhere. 3 out of 5

Steph's Review

I pretty much agree with Tony’s review, only some things bothered me more than they did him, and vice versa. For one, I don’t really care if video games have well-developed characters, because well, they’re video games. And this is a shooter/blow ‘em up one at that. So am I expecting a cerebral experience? No. Even mindlessly making things explode will make me happy here. But given that this game is a shooting game, it’s kind of critical that it does the whole shooting thing well, and in my opinion, Ao2 only does this kind of well. It’s über realistic to have your gun recoil and move slightly after each shot, but if you are me and have a hard enough time keeping your camera in place as it is, such realism just equals plain annoying and a low kill count. I much preferred the shooting physics (if that’s the right term) in the game Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, which is another game that wants to you to shoot more than you punch, but has actually managed to put together a workable system to facilitate this. Also, as Tony has noted, the aggro system is a big deal in Army of Two, but is half-baked in its execution. When it comes to video games, I have little finesse and am kind of a bruiser, so it made sense that I would take over the attention-grabbing aggro mode most of the time. One of the huge problems with this system that I noticed is that the big threatening guns that I yielded for this effect were actually pretty conservative in terms of the amount of amo they could carry. In order to get aggro, you have to shoot your gun. A lot. And if you have no amo, then you have no aggro… which is a huge problem, right? Especially when the baddies aren’t really dropping all that much amo when you kill them. And, as Tony pointed out, even when one of you has your aggro up, that didn’t necessarily provide us with the metaphorical sleights of hand we had been hoping for. I also liked the “timed” health system, which Tony mentioned, but given that that’s becoming de rigeur in most games today, that’s hardly a selling point for the game. Better perhaps was the whole ability for your partner to revive you should you take a handicapping blow. I also liked that this game was clearly designed to cater to a co-operative market, because certainly one of the current failings of the Playstation 3 is its lack of any really good co-op games (and no, being able to team up with people online doesn’t count!). Ao2 certainly can’t be held up as an example of a good co-op game, but I at least appreciate the underlying sentiment. Overall, I’m glad we rented instead of bought this one. The last level was pretty brutal and frustrating, and I can’t imagine us ever having wanted to play this one again had we actually finished it. Rating: 3 out of 5

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